Mainly kayaking photographs taken on the Isle of Man and beyond.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Kayaking Isle of Man - Surviving Gibraltar.

This blog has been devoid of entries and photographs of late. Part of the reason is that I've "fried" another waterproof camera. That's my fourth in three years. So far I've destroyed three pentax and one olympus marine cameras. Normally I'd go straight out and replace it but not this time. I'm struggling to decide which one to buy. I've come to the conclusion that so called waterproof cameras at best last about one year! Should I buy a cheap camera with poor picture quality or shell out £270 on a top spec Lumix FT2? I still can't decide and until I do photographs on this blog may continue to be snapped on my Blackberry Pearl, like the ones above.
As you can see I was in Gibraltar working for Christmas. Should you find yourself in a similar situation, confined to The Rock which is only a couple of miles square, then here are some truisms:
Be careful who you accuse of being Spanish and never ask why Gibraltar is British.
Do not put food down anywhere unless it is in a hermetically sealed container as the place is infested by ants. Similarly never eat food in the dark although I believe from certain survival programs that ants are quite nutritious.
Electrical goods are sold duty free in Gibraltar, but somehow this makes them more expensive than at home where we have duty!
You are never far from a cannon in Gibraltar.
The best Locum Consultant Anaesthetist job in the World is to be found here but alas, it all comes to an end in March.
The apes, especially the small ones, look cute but in fact they are vicious!
If you are scared of flying never willingly take off or land at Gibraltar airport, especially if there is a nasty cross wind.
That's all,
Happy new year.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Weight.

Paddling in tidal rapids is becoming a sport in its own right. I've been researching tidal race kayaking for a new section in describing well paddled tidal races from around the World. I've looked a little at boat design and its reassuring to find that boat manufacturers are producing sea kayaks designed specifically for this relatively new sport. One well known British manufacturer (not Rockpool) produces a boat which is "heavily rockered, with a flat midsection, the hull gives great manoeuvrability in big water, whilst well defined chines and buoyant ends provide solid stability and control on the wave." Well you can't argue with that and I think that's how I'd want my next sea kayaking "play boat". One slightly less well known North American manufacturer is also producing what it describes as a "British" style boat with a skeg with many of the attributes of the first boat mentioned. One important difference between the two stood out though. The British company is producing a boat which weighs 25 kg. The North American boat weighs in at just 15 kg!
I put this to the UK company as I thought that the 25kg weight mentioned on their web site must be a mistake. It just seems way too heavy to me and they replied "the boat features a heavier duty layup than found on our other boats (the core material is approx. 1mm thicker).We could, of course, have chosen to produce a lightweight boat, but the danger with this is that it will not have suitable stiffness and/or it's failure mode upon an impact will be critical. Our preference is to make the boat extremely rigid, to prevent flex in big conditions, with toughness that will give the boat longevity that light weight will not."
I don't think I can argue with that. Certainly my Rockpool Alaw Bach does flex a bit in the extreme conditions sometimes encountered in our Isle of Man tidal races. On the other hand one of the Rockpools I use is a 3 piece, and it has held together very well. Could this dichotomy of opinion reflect the differences in our tidal races. In North America, especially around Vancouver Island, tidal flows regularly reach double digits and need no weather to whip them up. The races in which the British boat is used are slower flowing, but when whipped up by the frequent gales become gnarly, less predictable and hostile perhaps requiring a firmer layup. At the end of the day I guess it boils down to personal preference. I'm happy with my Rockpool but if I were to consider purchasing a new boat, then I think a trip to Washington State may be in order!
The new tidal race section is still under construction but in the meantime you can read about the Surge Rapids and the Okisollo Waves.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Kayak Isle of Man - SpeedStroke Gym - Kayak Ergometer 2

How much would you pay for a kayaking exercise machine? After much thought and deliberation I decided that £2000 was the most I would be willing to spend. On the 29th of September I issued a "wanted" plea. I was after a SpeedStroke Gym - Kayak Ergometer to help maintain my Winter fitness. I had heard and read that it was the best kayaking machine available.
The problem I had was that the UK supplier, my closest as I live on the Isle of Man, quoted me a price of £2424 (approx $3800) including delivery to the Island. This seemed high to me and to confound the situation, the US based parent supplier seemed reluctant to supply me.
In the end I turned to a website called . They sell a wide variety of high quality outdoor and sports gear. Rarely have I found such an exceptional level of service from an online retailer. They provided what seemed like a personal service, as my machine made the difficult journey from China to the Isle of Man via the UK. The delivery time was just 4 days! Total cost including delivery, VAT and duties £1931.49 (approx $3044.59).
As for the machine well assembly took about 1 hour. Paddling feels totally authentic and of course my fitness level has soared.
Many thanks to all those who responded to my original blog post, and a special thank you to .

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Kayaking Isle of Man - Turks and Caicos Islands.

I've been out in the Turks and Caicos Islands for two weeks now. I've been helping out on Provo and Grand Turk teaching hospital staff some critical care medicine. The two hospitals are brand new having only opened 7 months ago. Many of the staff are new to the Islands, and it's not easy setting up a hospital from scratch. I've been amazed by the progress which has been made. The nurses I helped train, who originate from all corners of the planet, are incredibly professional, enthusiastic and willing to learn.
Like the Isle of Man the Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Crown Dependency with a Governor in residence. Overwhelmingly however, one cannot help but notice the Canadian and American influence here. Even the locally used currency is the US Dollar. It was great therefor to climb into a British Valley touring kayak for one of the two paddles I've made since I arrived. Although this plastic gunboat does not compare to the fibreglass Rockpool I normally paddle, it edged, rolled and handled amazingly well. I was also surprised at the relaxed attitude of the kayaking outlet from which I rented it. This solo paddle was undertaken with absolutely no questions asked about my past experience and skill level. Once I'd signed the waiver that was all that was required to permit me to paddle off through the mangroves, passed the conc farm and out into the open sea in a force 5! Contrast that to the trouble I had in Canada in the Summer persuading anyone to let me have a kayak for the day. I'm not sure which attitude is best, but I much prefer the former.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Sunday.

You know, one of the reasons I've kept this blog going is to help promote the Isle of Man as a fantastic kayaking venue. These photos were snapped on a paddle yesterday from Port St Mary, around the Calf of Man and back. Ian and I had a great time although Jess was sadly missing. I think you can see the great variety of scenery and paddling conditions we encountered. But best of all we believe we made history with the first ever underwater phone call to be made in Manx waters! If you know other wise then please contact me here. (lower most photo of and by Ian Smith)

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Wanted - SpeedStroke Gym - Kayak Ergometer.

Sometimes I really want to paddle, but just for the exercise. The weather may be too severe, or just too calm. It takes a lot of effort loading your gear into the car and driving off to a suitable launch point. And then of course there is the miserable job of rinsing the salt water out of your paddling equipment on return. These thoughts, together with the completion of the construction of a gym within my house, led me to the decision to purchase my own kayak ergometer.
Having reviewed the available machines, and spent many hours or days considering the wisdom of paying £1,995 ($3,154) for such a device, I decided to order the SpeedStroke Gym - kayak ergometer. This machine is used by many of the top Olympic teams including the US and Canadian paddlers. I wrestled with PayPal a bit and then made the decision to go ahead and add the machine to my shopping cart using the EliteCanoeing website, the sole UK distributors. I then received an email informing me that the price on the website, and in my shopping cart did not include VAT or postage. The final bill for the machine came to £2424 (approximately $3800)! The machine when purchased in the US for US delivery costs $2745. Unfortunately the US parent company will not supply me with a K1 Ergo.
So, if anyone out there has a new or good condition used SpeedStroke Gym - Kayak machine for sale, then please contact me here. If in the UK I may be able to collect it myself.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Kayaking Isle of Man - Oban Sea Kayak Race.

Ever get the feeling you've really messed up? I had that feeling when I arrived in Oban for the weekend recently only to witness the inaugural Oban Sea Kayak Race taking place. Of course, as I was half way through a job in a hospital about as far from the sea as you can get in Scotland, I didn't bring my kayak or my gear. To be honest I've never taken part in a paddling race before and I'm sure my lack of preparation would have meant that I lagged well behind, but it would have been nice just to take part.
The race circumnavigates the Island of Kerrera which is just off Oban. Much of the 20 km route is remote and exposed and I think just finishing would be an achievement in itself. A further great achievement is the over £1000 raised for the RNLI. The overall winner was John Willacy from Anglesey in an astonishing time of 1 hour 55 minutes and 41 seconds. You can read more about the race and perhaps sign up for next years at .

Monday, 13 September 2010

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man- Big Tides!

Jess, Ian and myself back in the Calf Sound tidal races.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Winter Harbour.

I last visited Holberg in Northern Vancouver Island two years ago. Back then I thought this small logging settlement was the end of the World. I was wrong, Winter harbour, some 20 km beyond Holberg holds that title. To reach Holberg a 40 km gravel logging road winds its way through the dense forest from Port Hardy. Beyond Holberg the track becomes single file, rocky and treacherous, seeming to double back on itself, and twist and turn as if to confuse the traveller. It's a maize of unpaved logging roads only decipherable because of the signs at most junctions. Where the alternative tracks go is a mystery best left unsolved.
As I arrived in Winter Harbour, driving past the welcoming sign, I thought the settlement must consist of just one or two dwellings. In fact the village runs in a narrow strip along the edge of the tree lined fjord, shielded from the track by vegetation. On discovering the village the first thing you notice are the numerous billboards and signs warning that trespassing will be punishable by guard dog or worse! It is like entering a maximum security facility in the middle of nowhere. And yet there seems to be virtually no one around to either heed, or enforce the warnings. Winter Harbour gives the impression of a ghost town of rather cautious second home owners. But this place does have one feature which makes the long journey worth while. Winter Harbour has a magnificent board walk.
The board walk stretches most of the length of Winter Harbour. 3 planks wide, all laid length ways, there are few horizontal supports! The boards spring and flex with the weight of the walker sometimes quit precariously. As you bounce along, the board walk meanders mainly between quaint wooden dwellings and the sea. Occasionally a pier or jetty will project out at right angles into the fjord and out to a mooring. Most again are festooned with threatening "KEEP OFF" signs. The raised passage crosses beach and river beds, open areas of grass and penetrates patches of dense trees and other vegetation. Certainly when we were there it was deserted and peaceful allowing full appreciation of the stunning scenery in and around the hamlet.
Winter Harbour is really a haven for serious fisher folk and those that wish to escape people. It's difficult to get to and I don't think I'd make that journey again. Having said that I'm glad I did if only for Winter Harbour's delightful board walk.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Tofino KAYAKING.

It's been a week now since I sent a polite email to the Tofino Sea Kayaking Company regarding a solo kayak rental (see previous post). Apart from the automated reply acknowledging the receipt of my message, I still have received no reply from a human being at that particular company.
I thought I was doomed to a kayaking free spell in the paddling mecca that Tofino, Vancouver Island, is! That is until I found Paddle West Kayaking. Their courteous and thorough staff first ensured that I was competent and equipped to solo paddle around the Clayoquot Sound. Once satisfied they provided me with a boat, a paddle and all other necessary gear. And at 10 CAD per hour the price seemed pretty good too. OK, the boat was plastic, green and North American but I was so grateful I didn't care.
For your kayaking needs in Tofino, BC, Canada I would recommend Paddle West Kayaking.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - NO KAYAKING!

The World is becoming health and safety crazy. The individual is no longer responsible for his own safety and well being. Particularly where there is money is involved the threat of litigation looms large. But its all for our own good. We can live longer and have fewer accidents. We also grow fatter and take Prozac. Our lives become empty as we languish in our cotton wool shells created for us by the lawyers.
So why am I blowing off about health and safety and why are there moody pictures of Long Beach, Tofino, Canada instead of kayaking photos on this particular blog entry? Well I'm told that the only place I can rent a kayak in Tofino, Vancouver Island, is from the Tofino Sea Kayaking Company. The pleasant lady behind the counter told me that they only have two rules when it comes to kayak rental. The first is that you have to be an expert, and the second is that you cannot paddle alone! I just want to go for a solo blast around the Sound, something I have done many times before when I fetched my own 3 piece kayak to Vancouver Island all the way from the Isle of Man. I followed up with an email to the Tofino Sea Kayaking Company offering to sign a waiver for the solo trip. Now, I don't blame them for not letting me paddle alone in one of their boats. That's the way the World is now and I'm sure they have taken sound legal advice. I do blame them for not replying to my email sent two days ago. But I thank them for keeping me safe, if not a little frustrated!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man - Pain!

Modern advice is not to rest when you experience many sorts of back pain. Instead carry on with your usual daily activities if you can, take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (if you can) and maybe get some physiotherapy. The days of taking to bed for three weeks with pain killers and Valium are mostly gone! I'm not sure this advice should include tidal race paddling at spring tides and in the aftermath of a force 7 however! I was in agony for 24 hours after my experiences in the Sound on Sunday. Much of tidal race paddling is about edging the boat, especially in a rough water kayak like the Rockpool Alaw Bach. Clearly, with a lumbar back injury any sort of edging is agony but unavoidable in a tidal race at full pelt.
Having said all that my back is much better than it has been for weeks today and so the jury is out. Thanks to Ian's Dad for the top two photos.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Sea Kayaking Isle of Man -Ballyquintin Pt.

Of late my own attempts at tidal race paddling have been a little disappointing. A combination of the wrong tidal conditions, the wind flattening off the waves and a grumbling, but slowly resolving back injury have put pay to any hopes of a satisfying tidal race session. Not so for John Grant over in Northern Ireland who seems to be slowly mapping out his local tidal races. All the above photos were sent to me by John and you can read more about his adventures here.